Letters: Let diplomacy have its day in Ukraine

These letters appear in the February 23 edition of The Independent

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Russian actions and behaviour since the fall of Viktor Yanukovych have been truly disturbing and it is depressing to think that we appear to be headed towards a new Cold War (report, 21 February).

We should, however, take heed of comments made by Lord Tugendhat about the ineptness of European diplomacy towards Russia and the tin ear shown for Russian sensitivities.

One wonders how the US would react if either Canada or Mexico showed signs  of wanting to sign up to  a military alliance headed by Russia. 

During the Cuban crisis of 1962 the US went to the brink of nuclear war to stop the Soviet Union installing missiles some 100 miles from Florida. This crisis was the direct result of the stationing of American missiles in Turkey a similar distance across the Black Sea from Crimea.

At that time, shocked by how quickly the world was approaching Armaggedon, diplomacy was allowed to do its work. No Soviet missiles were installed on Cuba and some time later and with no fanfare American missiles were removed from Turkey. The world relaxed and the threat of nuclear war receded for almost a generation.

We need the same diplomatic skills now.  A way must be found to  de-escalate what is becoming an increasingly dangerous situation.   

Dave Barker
Boxmeer, The Netherlands


The current situation in the Ukraine and the Baltic states prove that the maintaining of the Trident system is the only way to keep the Russian  bear in check. The current UK government has proved its military and naval incompetence by aircraft carriers without aircraft, an army without armour and its failed attempt to recruit reservists to replace the experienced, trained soldiers, sailors and airmen it has forced to leave the services. 

In spite of these many failed policies the decision to keep Trident will make up for them. Even the SNP should realise that without Trident, there is no way to keep the UK safe from foreign aggression and blackmail. Like it or not the nation is going to have to depend on MAD (mutually assured destruction) and Trident as the main ingredient in the defence of the realm for the unseeable future. Anyone thinking differently need only look at Ukraine, which gave up its nuclear arsenal at the end of the Cold War, and now is being torn to shreds by Russia. We are back in the world of Dr Strangelove whether we like it or not.

George D Lewis
Brackley, Northamptonshire


John Woods (Letters, 21 February) argues that Crimea and Donetsk have always been Russian. He forgets that Crimean Tatars owned the land centuries before Russians arrived. Every single one of them was forcibly removed from their homes and deported to Siberia in 1944.

They, as well as thousands of Ukrainians, had no say in the so-called referendum in 2014. The problem here is the barbaric way Russia annexed Crimea and created a puppet state in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Your claim that Russians were regarded the heroes of the Second World War is hurtful to me as a Ukrainian. Millions of Ukrainians sacrificed their lives in the war where they fought alongside Russians.

Ukrainians had a dream of living in an independent state where rule of law is above nepotism. This is the price they pay for living a dream. Now Putin sacrifices Russian young men to fight Ukrainians.

If you still think that Putin is a great leader defending his own territory, I advise you to look back at the Second World War, started by a deeply disturbed man misunderstood by the rest of Europe.

Oksana Styles
Broadstairs, Kent


Tax dodge that benefits the treasury

Your story concerning the favourable tax treatment of private equity managers (19 February) is reasonably accurate, although it is a distortion to imply that the treatment being accorded their “carried interest” entitlements is not in accordance with the tax law. 

That such treatment is generous  – the taxation of what could be argued to be remuneration at capital gains rates – cannot be disputed. What also cannot be disputed is that such treatment results in significant tax revenues to HMRC and removes incentives that might otherwise exist to find alternative means of mitigating tax on the income that might leave the fisc poorer.

There is a significant international dimension. Carried interests receive identical treatment in the US. A unilateral change to the UK treatment would make the UK uncompetitive relative to the US, and perhaps elsewhere. 

President Obama targeted the treatment of carried interests as an area requiring reform. Significantly, his proposal was not to completely eliminate capital gains treatment, but to provide that such interests would give rise to a blend of capital gains and ordinary income, which is a strong indication that the current treatment is not wholly inappropriate. 

Like many of the President’s proposals, the carried interest reform has not received Congressional approval. 

Jeffrey Gould
Frank Hirth plc
London WC1


We could learn from the US how to deal with tax evasion and fraud. First, we need to be clear about the difference between evasion, which is a criminal offence, and avoidance, which is just taking advantage of legitimate methods, such as deducting interest payments or having an Ira (equivalent to an Isa), which everybody does.

The punishment for evasion and tax fraud can be quite draconian – a $250,000 penalty or five years in jail (or both) for each and every year that the crime occurs. There are probably a number of Americans who are quaking in their shoes as a result of the present disclosures about their secret Swiss bank accounts.

There is also a “whistleblowers’ charter” – anyone reporting a possible case of tax evasion can get 30 per cent of the final penalty – quite an encouragement.

John Day
Port Solent, Hampshire


In the old days opening a Swiss bank account was always the best way to ensure complete secrecy for one’s financial affairs, and in particular well away from the gaze of the tax collectors. These days however, holding such an account seems to offer the best guarantee that everyone else will be able to read all the lurid details on the front pages of the newspapers.  

Nigel Wilkins
London SW7


BBC underestimates appetite for news

Michael Church is spot on in his critique of the BBC’s coverage of news and current affairs (18 February). Why do reporters have to mention Hugh, Fiona or whoever is presenting the news in their reports? It is as though the viewer is intruding on a private conversation (although it has to be said that the BBC is not alone in this annoying habit). And don’t get me started on the backchat between presenters and weather people, most of whom appear to see themselves as celebrities. More importantly, though, I was appalled that two of Newsnight’s best reporters, Tim Whewell and Susan Watts, were made redundant by the incoming editor Ian Katz. 

When will the BBC learn that there is an audience for serious news coverage and informed comment?

Dr John Coad
Harpenden, Hertfordshire


Winner of the 2007 Peace prize

In “UN climate chief Rajendra Pachauri investigated about sexual harassment” (report, 20 February) you wrongly describe Rajendra Pachauri as a “Nobel Peace Prize winner”.

Presumably your error stems from confusion concerning the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize which was to “be shared, in two equal parts, between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.”

Since 2002 Dr Pachauri has been the chair of the IPCC, but thousands of scientists from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC on a voluntary basis, and it is false to state that the prize was awarded to Pachauri, rather than to the IPCC.

Ariel Neuer
Toronto, Canada


The sound of silence

Your recent article on musical page-turning (20 February) reminded me of an occasion when, as a music student at Aberdeen University around 1970, I was deputed to turn pages for the organist during a recording of Songs of Praise for the BBC. All went well until a page-turn, followed immediately by a loud passage using the solo trumpet stop. When the organist placed his hands on the keyboard, there was complete silence.

I was a strapping young woman then, and in leaning forward to turn the page I had inadvertently pushed in the solo trumpet stop with my bosom. I was never allowed to live it down.

Julia Hunter
Rugby, Warwickshire